Sunday Photo Fiction – Lunar Promises

48 02 February 23rd 2014

Copyright – Al Forbes

Click here to submit your own flash fiction based on the photograph, and to read other stories.

In the village where Sian was born, a small housing estate was being built to the west. The area had previously been an unremarkable, empty field. It had also been the spot where, every month, Sian’s mother had greeted the full moon at midnight. The moon gave her gifts of rare herbs and dispensed words of advice in reward for her diligence.

Sian’s mother had been dead for five years, and Sian had not dared to meet the moon herself in that time. She left the hospital where her brother was being treated, knowing that she had to do something. The skies were cloudless and the timing was perfect.

Walking through the empty construction site, she had no idea whether her presence here would be acknowledged. The moon had every right to refuse her, and this place was perhaps no longer as sacred as it once was.

Sian paused. The moonlight filtered through the giant metal frames, and then solidified in front of her.

She kneeled, sobbed for forgiveness, and pleaded until a deal was struck.


Some Culture For You – Extended

This is an extension of my previous Friday Fictioneers post, which can be found here.

I stand in the dark, with only the smell of urine to keep me company. I’m a trespasser, not just to this abandoned building, but to this country which you seem to have claimed for yourself. Every odd little custom and saying reminds me of the weeks in which we first met, where my looks of amusement would prompt explanations from you. “That’s just something we say where I’m from.”

I’m now in the place where you are from, in the very building you said you lived in.

“You fucking bastard.” I breathe.

That’s something we say where I’m from.

I try to breathe shallowly because the odour is becoming overwhelming. Ungraciously, I accept defeat and walk back to the only ground floor room where the boards on the window are broken. I have to stop midway to lean against the graffiti covered walls in the hallway. I hit the walls harder and harder, trying to force away the anger that’s constricting my throat and chest.

“I fucking hate you! I fucking hate you!” I moan through gritted teeth. The pain in my torso radiates throughout my body, and it’s really, really easy to blame you for it despite the fact it’s obviously not your fault.

Liver cancer.

Fucking ironic, right? I mean, I definitely did more than my fair share of research and testing to find a cure. Obviously didn’t contribute as much as you did, as everyone is keen to point out. Well, that’s a lie, nobody is actually comparing your work to mine. It just feels that way when someone mentions any articles you write, any conferences you speak at, and any documentaries you appear in. It happens suspiciously often, and I wonder how you can possibly have time to do so much.

Then again, I was always amazed at how fast you worked. I quickly learned not to compete with you in the same way that many post-graduate students in the same area compete. I revered you like a God at first, and you bashfully accepted my jealous praise. I’m not sure exactly how we became friends, but we were friends. Do you remember those lunchtimes where we’d sit together and make jokes about the awful cafeteria food? The times you’d come over and I’d make you “Proper English Food,” which seemed to consist of just about anything as long as it was smothered in gravy? The hours you’d spend talking about home?

This home. The one that I’m standing in.

And I’m such a desperate, pathetic idiot. I knew you wouldn’t be living here anymore. This is the address you gave the university when you first came to England. Just because you’re now working in the same city where you grew up doesn’t mean you’d be staying in the same apartment you were before. Even if you wanted to, this place became derelict a few years after you left.

Still, I pictured you being here so clearly, seeing this place as it is now makes me feel like everything you said was a lie. It’s so much simpler to see you as a villain, so much more satisfying for me to pretend you’re a bad person. If I think about this logically, I start feeling bad about tricking the secretary into giving me your old details. I start to wonder if I’m a bit crazy. I know I’m sick, but perhaps I’m sicker than I realize.

After vomiting, which actually makes little difference to the ambience of this corridor, I start walking again. As I get closer to the open window, the breeze highlights the clamminess of my cheeks. The light burns my retinas, and I place a shaking hand against my forehead to shield my eyes. Nausea bubbles up again, but I bite my lip until the feeling passes.

There’s going to be another few months of this, and then nothing. You probably wouldn’t even hear about my death. It pains me to consider that you might not care. A year ago, you were putting together a research team and I applied. Not just because of you, I hasten to add, but because it would have been a glorious opportunity to revive my floundering career. I checked my inbox every waking hour for a response.

I never despised you more than the moment I read the standard rejection letter that you sent. It was your name on the bottom of the email, the same bullshit about not having the correct skillset on top.

How fucking dare you.

We worked together. It was one thing for me to know that you were perhaps more academically gifted, but for you to not even consider me suitable to work on your projects? I suppose this research was too precious to you. You were finally starting the human trials of the wonder drug that had kick started your career. You were looking for the best, and I didn’t make the cut.

However, I have a sneaking suspicion that sending that letter made you feel good. You wanted revenge, didn’t you? You wanted to reject me like I rejected you.

I cried when you told me you were leaving England, but I was so happy for you. Your project had been a complete success, you’d gained massive attention, and I thought you deserved it. I smiled through my tears and told you that I’d always said you were a genius. You replied with something modest, and we stood silently for a few moments. I thought you were going to disappoint me, but after some tense heartbeats, you leaned forwards and pressed your lips against mine.

I backed away, confused and guilty. I had a boyfriend, and you knew that.

I would have kissed you back. I wasn’t in love with you, but even then I wanted to imprint myself in your life, which seemed destined for so much more than mine. I wanted you to revere me romantically in the same way as I revered you intellectually. Maybe you did at some point.

I tried to correspond with you shortly after you left, and you never replied. I broke up with my boyfriend. I worked hard with my research, but never came close to the success you currently enjoy. I was diagnosed with terminal cancer. My life will end, and the only remarkable part of it is the bit which was illuminated by you.

I need time.

I need a miracle.

Isn’t that what they’re calling the drug you created?

The Library Book Project – 9 April 2008

For more information on this project, click here.

They say that you can better tell someone’s age by their hands than by their face. As I chop these salad vegetables, I feel a renewed love for my fingers and palms, despite their bulging veins and arthritic swell. I’ve settled into a new rhythm with my body over the past few days. I can live with the imperfections and the aches, all the sags and wrinkles which would have horrified my younger self. It’s my body, and it’s pure.

What I couldn’t live with was all the poisons. Not just those cancerous cells in my breast, but the chemotherapy, the radiotherapy and the surgical drugs as well. I felt so invaded. I knew the doctors were only trying to treat me, but it felt like they were part of the assault. The night after the mastectomy was the worst. I couldn’t bear to look at myself, I couldn’t bear to be myself. I broke down to Richard. “What did I do to deserve this?” I cried. Richard put his arms around me and told me that I was still the most beautiful woman he knew.

Being given the all-clear was the sweetest victory I’ve ever tasted. I fought for this body, how could I not love it? Richard’s been very protective, a little too protective perhaps, so the trip to the library yesterday was the first solitary, unnecessary excursion I’ve had in a while. I watched Richard and Judy almost every morning during my recovery, so I picked out some of the books they endorsed, as I’d meant to for such a long time.

I haven’t started reading yet, I’ve been too busy. Some family and friends are coming over tonight, to celebrate my recovery. I smile. It’s going to be a good party.

Having Doubts About Everything


A “compliment” slip from Anatomicals. (Possibly the best skincare company I’ve ever come across.)

I went back to my parent’s house for a few days recently. I say I went back to my parent’s house. I saw them for about a day and then spent the rest of my time with a close friend. I had a really nice time overall, but one of the first issues I faced was that my sister also came home and essentially told me that my housemates had been saying things about me behind my back. (To clarify, she lived in the house as well until recently, so has known my housemates for longer than me.)

This really threw me off, as I would say that for a student house, we get along pretty well most of the time. Things aren’t perfect, but when you’re in a house with four other girls (and only one bathroom!), you’re generally just grateful that you aren’t screaming tearfully at each other or trying to rip each other’s hair out.

It made me feel like I didn’t really want to come back, but I realized that it wasn’t the end of the world. 1. My sister is one of those people who have a  tendency to take things you say and make them sound about one hundred times worse. 2. Yes, there was a period when I was ill, when I was busy with NaNo, when I was waiting for an appointment at the breast cancer screening clinic, when housework was not my priority. I can understand why my housemates may have been frustrated about that. If they said anything, it probably wasn’t personal.

And then, a few days later, I went out with my friend and got terribly drunk. And it was very fun at first. But then I kind of hit that moody, depressed state which I’ve never experienced before. The one where you wonder what you’re doing with your life because:

A. You still don’t have a job because you’re a lazy fuck and nobody wants to employ you and why am I so useless and oh god.

B. You’re really not that smart either. You’re not dumb, you got a 2.1 this year after all, but that’s still not a first.

C. You are surrounded by the absolute dregs of society, including some freaky stranger who keeps coming up behind you and putting his arms around you and trying to kiss your neck and arrrrgghhh leave me the fuck alone!

D. You’re a terrible writer. A real stinker. What are you playing at, spending so much time on wordpress and pretending people care about what you write?

E. Your housemates hate you. Maybe they’re right and you are a horrible, terrible person.

And, I’m absolutely sure that a lot of people on here can empathize with D. Not because they’re bad writers, just because they have doubts. Even famous authors have doubts about their work sometimes. 

I guess there’s no big secret to suddenly gaining confidence in your work. It takes time. I think it’s all about practicing and not giving up.

Oh mighty users of WordPress, what is your opinion?

Alastair’s Photo Fiction – Waiting For The Shadow


Copyright – Alastair Forbes

This prompt is from Alastair’s Photo Fiction.

Time isn’t silent anymore.

My grandparents have a large, beautiful house in the South. When I was younger, we visited every other weekend. If it was sunny, I’d spend most of the day in their garden. It was like another world to me. I was fascinated by the exotic looking plants and well-placed rockery. Best of all, there was a sun dial placed in the centre.

I’d stare at it, waiting for the shadow to move. I knew it did slide across the dial, just never when I was watching.

I have a feeling, if I looked at it now, I’d see the shadow steadily marching across the stone. I wait in the hospital room, linked to numerous tubes and machines, and I can feel time passing. I can hear it roaring past me. Unlike the flow of water, time doesn’t slow as the supply runs low. The last drops run the fastest.